Otto Billström joined our Design Department in January this year and believes his Scandinavian heritage aided his appreciation of 20th century design. Let's find out more about him...
Otto moved to the UK from Sweden when he was 18, to study Art History at the University of East Anglia where he completed a BA and MA specialising in 19th century art and the illustrated works of William Blake. Following the completion of his studies, he worked at Stockholm’s Auktionsverk as a junior valuer, running their entertainment memorabilia department.
Otto moved back to the UK in 2020 when he was offered a role as a buyer for an arts and antiques dealership in Petworth where he stayed until arriving at Sworders in January 2021.
He believes his Scandinavian heritage aided his appreciation of 20th century design. “I was raised to appreciate the classical shapes and styles of Josef Frank, Arne Jacobsen and Bruno Mathsson, to name a few”, he says.
What first attracted you to fine art and antiques?
I have had an interest in objects and art for as long as I can remember, so a specific moment is hard to pinpoint. I remember many instances from my early childhood, like first encountering a piece of Arne Jacobsen furniture that my parents salvaged from the Stockholm University renovation, or a pair of 17th century flintlock pistols in a collection belonging to my grandfather. My fascination with the history of these objects, and other discoveries over time, would eventually set me on course to move to the UK for my Art History studies, to put this fascination into an academic context.
How do the UK and Swedish interests/ markets differ?
The Scandinavian markets are generally quite selective when it comes to interest in continental or British art and antiques. As such, prices are generally lower than you’d expect when it comes to British art or Grand Tour souvenirs, for example, as the demand simply isn’t there to the extent that it might be in Britain or continental Europe. Contrastingly, prices for mid-century designs are generally lower, due to the market being flooded with such things. This, however, puts a higher price on condition and quality, so for the keen buyer or collector, it is definitely worth exploring for hidden gems. You could stumble across mid-century pieces by designers rarely seen on the UK market.
What was your most exciting find in the Swedish entertainment department?
There were many, but one of the most exciting ones was a Wurlitzer 1900 Centennial jukebox in immaculate condition. It had only two owners since 1956.
What is the one thing you would most like to find?
A previously undiscovered bronze by Carl Milles. His combination of classical ideals and modernist aesthetics is remarkable and unmatched, going from simplistic to vivid.
Who is your favourite Swedish designer that we’ve heard of?
There are many, but I would probably have to say Stig Lindberg, as his playfulness in both colour and shape seldom fail to put a smile on my face.
Who is your favourite Swedish designer that we haven't heard of?
Otto Schulz, and not because we share a name. Despite him being born in Germany, he lived most of his life in Gothenburg where he came to spearhead late Art Deco in Sweden and laid the foundation of the Swedish Modern movement through his brand Boet. He is predominantly renowned for his exceedingly comfortable and timeless lounge chairs, but his production extends to complete interiors, many of which were often bespoke designs by Schulz and included everything from beds and sofas to sideboards and bar cabinets, all of exquisite quality and exceptional craftsmanship.
Tell us something you discovered during lockdown
I chose to cope with lockdown through a variety of escapist means, be that through immersing myself in Russian literature, or rediscovering my childhood hobby of painting miniatures, something which I usually pair with a history podcast or two.
Sworders' Design Department currently invites entries for the summer Design sale, to be held on Tuesday 13 July, and seeks iconic items of design to include Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Studio Ceramics, 1960s Design, and Modern Design and Furniture.
For valuations and consignments, please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org | 01279 817778
email@example.com | 01279 817778
Entries close Friday 28 May
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